THE BIG RELEASE
Assume Form, Polydor ★★★★✩
ASSUME Form not only functions as a title for the surprise new album release by James Blake, it also serves as a succinct description of his catalogue to date. What began as electronic collages, an assembling of fragments gleaned from the experimental dance genres of the moment, has over time coalesced into recognisable songs.
What’s remarkable is that while he has become a confrère of and influence on the likes of Kanye West and Bon Iver, as well as a popular artist in his own right, Blake hasn’t compromised the atmosphere of that music, which retains the spectral quality that marked it out from the off.
The new record is tasteful, certainly. Blake has always been that and when he was criticised for veering towards more familiar structures this rather overlooked that even at his most avant-garde he was never liable to frighten the horses. There is no reason why this should be a requirement — something that fits, figuratively speaking, on one’s coffee table may still be a work of integrity and invention.
As he drifts ever closer to the current British neo-soul sound that shares many of its sonic tributaries with his own (Can’t Believe The Way We Flow is a gorgeous addition to that genre), Blake maintains his capacity to stay abreast of fashion without seeming to pander to it. Barefoot In The Park has timed the appearance of Spanish soon-to-be star Rosalía very neatly — and it works, with the guest vocal fluttering and darting around Blake’s brittle countertenor.
Assume Form slips by very smoothly if you’re not paying attention — but when you do, it pays you back.
Assume that this spectral star will be another sonic hit
Toast To Our Differences, Asylum Records ★★★✩✩
Rudimental weren’t the first band to use their effective template — a core of studio boffins writing and producing tracks with a wide selection of featured vocalists — but they are, if not the most radical, surely the most likeable.
That may have something to do with the sunniness, the bounce, this good-vibes dance collective regularly bring to their drum’n’bass tunes.
Their albums have tended, to put it kindly, towards the variable, and Toast To Our Differences is no exception. But the Latin-inflected title track and Scared Of Love, the reggae-pop Let Me Live, and the sweet rush of Summer Love (which finds Rita Ora on the kind of delicious form that made Hot Right Now such a joy back in the day) are all prime Rudimental.
They may hit the target erratically but when they do, they’re spot on.